Rob's Summary of Week One

Posted by Rob Esposito

I. Progressive Relaxation
II. Proprioceptive visualization

  • a. A gentle, rolling weight
  • b. A warm wave of relaxation
  • c. A chalk board

III. Somatics

  • a. Thomas Hanna, Part Three
  • b. Sensing whole body in motion
  • c. Parts sequentially into the whole

IV. Chaos and Order

  • a. Concentric Circles—figure it out, smallest to tallest.
  • b. Time—the wave
  • c. Energy—spectrum, sound, distance—row, row, row, your boat
  • d. Primal form—story telling in the round
  • -----i. Song
  • -----ii. Dance
  • -----iii. Word
  • -----iv. Symbol
  • e. Ritual awareness and control; the known and the unknown

V. Community—the tribe

  • a. Shared experience
  • b. Tacit understanding
  • c. Context
  • d. Embodied reality

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Gestalt: ge·stalt or Ge·stalt n
a set of elements such as a person’s thoughts and experiences considered as a whole and regarded as amounting to more than the sum of its parts
- Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999

Use the paper “Dance Improvisation: A Gestalt Approach”, posted here, as a reference, throughout the program. Particularly keep in mind the “Three Prerequisites”: 1) Somatic Awareness, 2) Self-World Connectivity, and 3) Trust in Mind-Body Holism.

Know that when we refer to the body, we mean the soma, unless specified. The soma is a complex experience described under the rubric of mind-body, or body-mind. Soma is not only physical anatomy, but includes the dimensions of awareness described under the rubric, CONTENT:


I will sometimes refer to this four-part gestalt as awareness. Awareness was self-demonstrated when you first unconsciously crossed your thumbs when clasping your hands together, and then consciously reversed the superior-inferior aspects. We also experienced awareness when we repeatedly rotated, flexed, and extended the right leg, then stopped and felt the difference in sensation between the right and left legs.

Lesson: Movement stimulates awareness.

In Gestalt fashion, sensation, feeling, thought, and movement cannot be separated, although any one may predominate a given situation. We can begin to understand the whole by starting an exploration of the presenting stimulus. As in somatics, one thing leads to another. A given event may be dominated by an odor (sensation), for example. Further investigation reveals an emotional response (feeling), a set of cognitive associations (thought), and a bodily or behavioral response (movement).

Application: If, as a writer, musician, dancer, or actor, the artist can recreate the sensory, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral experience of his or her subject, the audience will more easily experience the same dynamic tensions vicariously through each respective medium. The more fully, clearly, and accurately the “author” can experience her/his own sensory, emotional, intellectual, and movement behavior, the better they will be rendered in their respective art forms. The author actually inspires, or breathes life into his or her characters.

Methods: The first thing we did is progressive relaxation.

The muscles of the body extend and contract across the skeletal joints to articulate movement. Muscles sets are interconnected. Therefore it requires a modicum of sensory awareness to contract a muscle in isolation. An over-strenuous muscle contraction will recruit contraction in adjacent muscle sets. Complete passivity renders no sensation in the muscle. Gentle contraction while the whole body is in a general state of relaxation provides the clearest awareness of a specific muscle or muscle-set. We could say that this is more an exercise in awareness than in control. The guided imagery of a weight rolling up and down the body, or of a warm wave, or of an activity like drawing and erasing figures on a board, involves almost no muscle contraction at all. This shows that awareness alone can create a proprioceptive response. The relationship of awareness and control is important in all art forms, in everything that we do.

The third prerequisite—trusting that mind and body are connected and work on one is work on the other—applies to awareness and control. The body is the mind and the mind is the body, just as red and violet are both frequencies of electromagnetism, or light.

The object lesson is: Awareness is control; and, control is awareness.

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